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YouTube Launches Fact-Checking Feature in U.S. to Fight Misinformation Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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YouTube is launching fact-check information panels for U.S. users searching for specific debunked topics, with the video platform citing the coronavirus outbreak as underscoring the need to quickly flag misinformation.

YouTube is introducing the new feature as a number of hoaxes related to COVID-19 continue to circulate on the service and elsewhere online. For example, YouTube’s fact-check panels can debunk the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 is a bio-weapon, as well as the myth that it’s potentially fatal if people who have contracted the coronavirus take ibuprofen pain medication.

However, YouTube’s fact-check panels are not a comprehensive cure to stopping misinformation that’s floating around on the service.

First, there must be an associated article available from an eligible publisher on the given topic. In addition, the fact-checks will only show up when people search for a specific claim. For example, YouTube said, if a user searches for “did a tornado hit Los Angeles,” they might see a relevant fact-check article but if they search for a more general query like “tornado,” they may not.

According to YouTube, it’s using more than a dozen U.S. publishers to fact-check claims made in videos, including FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, the Washington Post Fact Checker and the Dispatch, via the open ClaimReview network. YouTube says any U.S. publisher is able to participate in the fact-checking review if it adheres to the ClaimReview standards and are either a verified signatory of Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles or are “an authoritative publisher.” YouTube also said it is providing $1 million to IFCN through the Google News Initiative.

“Our systems will become more accurate, and over time, we’ll roll this feature out to more countries,” YouTube said in a blog post.

The fact-check feature builds on the information panels YouTube first introduced in 2018, to provide links to sources like Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia for “topics prone to longstanding misinformation” — in other words, conspiracy theories such as that the Moon landing was a hoax. YouTube said it’s now using those panels “to help address an additional challenge: Misinformation that comes up quickly as part of a fast-moving news cycle, where unfounded claims and uncertainty about facts are common.” It said it has recently been linking to the WHO, CDC and local health authorities for videos and searches related to COVID-19.

The U.S. launch of the fact-check panels come after YouTube introduced them last year in Brazil and India.

The video service shared an example of what the fact-check panels look like: